Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Slow Reading

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Slow Reading

Article excerpt

Slow Reading John Miedema. Duluth, MN: Litwin Books, 2008. 92 pp., $12 (paper)

Considerable ink (both soy-based and digital) has been poured in the recent debates over the effects of information technologies on culture, education, and scholarship, from the popular jeremiads of Nicholas Carr (The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) to the methodical and substantial scholarship of Christine L. Borgman (Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet). One welcomes new, original, and well documented contributions to this conversation.

John Miedema's earnest, slender volume wants to enter this conversation. Begun as a graduate course paper and expanded into a book-length essay at the invitation of the publisher, Slow Reading engages one's sympathies but fails to say anything new or to break new ground in the study of information technologies and their effect on culture or even of reading.

Miedema views the book's first four chapters as linked but independent essays. The final chapter is a brief "how to" of slow reading. The first chapter, "The Personal Nature of Slow Reading," skips from medieval notions of biblical meditative reading (lectio divina) to brief mentions of Nietzsche and Heidegger and to the New Criticism's notion of "close reading." None of these theories of reading is discussed in any depth or detail.

The second chapter, "Slow Reading in an Information Ecology," focuses on the ways that digital media have affected our reading habits. Miedema sketches a history of the dissemination of digital media and of digital texts and electronic readers. He proposes "information ecology" as a useful metaphor in understanding the triad of readers, print texts, and digital texts. Unfortunately, he fails to discuss the shrewd and well documented research of John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, particularly their 2000 book The Social Life of Information, which explores the same trope.

In "The Slow Movement and Slow Reading," the third chapter, Miedema employs the analogy of the "slow food" movement to explain the benefits of slow reading. This chapter explains the value of the local library both as a location of experts and a physical place where browsing and reading can comfortably occur. …

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